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Ponderings of a therapist’s mind: demystifying EMDR part 3 EMDR intensives?

I recently began conducting  EMDR Intensives, and since then, I have come to find that the benefits far outweigh any other option.

What is an EMDR Intensive?

An EMDR Intensive is when a client decides to do a session that may last 3-5 days, 6-8 hours per day, versus attending my office one or two hours per week.During these sessions, the client can take breaks as needed to eat, move around, take a washroom break, and in some cases engage in a bit of exercise mid-day. This strategy is currently being used in the UK successfully and is proving to lead to successful results more quickly than standard sessions.

What happens during The EMDR Intensives?

First, in phase 1 of EMDR therapy, the clinician takes a full history, and determines whether EMDR is a suitable treatment modality for the client.

Then, the client and therapist together identify the goals for the session, with clients often usually choosing to address their most pressing issues arising from past traumas and current struggles.

Once the treatment plan is in place, the process involves developing certain ‘tools’ aimed at helping the client be able to modulate affect; in laymen’s terms, this means developing specific skills that enhance their ability to self-soothe, or simply calm down after having intense emotional reactions. This step is critical to the clients’ ability to have the confidence to proceed with processing unresolved trauma and other issues, regardless of whether they are participating in intensive sessions, however, these exercises assist in providing comfort throughout the sessions, and are utilized as needed for that purpose. I call these the ‘feel-goody’ exercises. Clients learn how to contain things that need to be addressed, and also learn various skills to get grounded, calm, and relaxed – to self-soothe, as mentioned earlier.

Next, time is spent attending to anything that might interfere with or disrupt the ability to successfully process issues, such as when there is fear, anxiety, a general lack of feeling safe, or other issues that may get in the way. For example, “feeling safe when you are safe,” (a phrase coined by Katie O’Shea, developer of early trauma EMDR protocol) is a state of being that allows people to walk through their fears, anxiety, etc. Being able to intervene in states of fear, anger, and other intense feeling states also allow clients to more confidently ‘go there.’

After all of the above is complete, which can take at least a day, processing continues, as clients begin dealing with traumatic incidents or events, and other painful issues that interfere with their ability to a) fully enjoy life, and b) stop recreating unhealthy patterns, such as addictions, conflict, lack of success or accomplishment, etc.

So why intensives?

What I observe is that when a person comes in for an hour, we may spend time on check-in, and in determining the focus of the session. Then we can do maybe 30-40 minutes processing. Then, before the client leaves, we need to close up all the material and do exercises to assist clients to get grounded before they leave the office. What that means is that there is a constant pattern of open and close, open and close, each session, and the time is partly consumed by the need to ensure things are safely put away for another day. As well, often sessions may be incomplete, and the same issue may simply take longer because it isn’t finished in that one session.

Alternatively, EMDR intensives create an opportunity to resolve more issues more quickly, and to reduce the amount of time spent on the open-close scenario. Overall, even clients are impressed at their own progress. One man said to me ‘gee, I held onto that for 60 years, and I had no idea that I could deal with it so quickly. I never told anyone about what happened to me as a boy.’ In one 3 day intensive, he was able to overcome 4 hugely traumatic events he experienced in childhood, and at the close of the 3 days, he expressed both gratitude and excitement about his future.

If you would like to know more about EMDR, and especially about booking an EMDR Intensive, please do not hesitate to contact me!

Kind regards,

I look forward to hearing from you.
harris-sig
Dr Barbara Harris, PhD, MSW, RSW

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Dr. Barbara now offers Skype sessions for EMDR Intensives, Consultations and Trauma Counselling.

Certified EMDR Therapist
EMDR Consultant in Training

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West Vancouver, BC
V7T 1A2

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